Media | ‘De diddly dum de dum,’ then cue result from Stenhousemuir

The longest-running radio sports program in the world, the BBC Sports Report, celebrated its 60th anniversary on Jan 3. Recognition also goes to the Edinburgh inflections of James Alexander Gordon, who as part of the show has read the classified football results at 5 p.m. every Saturday since 1972 (see Andrew Baker, “Classified Football Results Make Music at BBC,” Daily Telegraph, Jan 3).

Gordon

Cued by the instantly recognizable march “Out of the Blue,” performed by the Royal Air Force Central Band, Gordon reads the day’s results for five minutes, a matchday ritual for millions across the UK and abroad who check their pools coupons or wait to hear Gordon’s pitch-perfect rendering of “Stenhousemuir.” Listeners who have posted their memories to the BBC website seem to maintain special affection for the Scottish side, the Warriors of Ochilview Park, near Falkirk. “When James Alexander Gordon read out the name of Stenhousemuir I always smiled, back then it always seemed such a funny name,” writes daverrey.

“It was the reading of scores rather than live match commentaries that gave radio its initial impetus,” according to When Saturday Comes: The Half Decent Football Book, “not only for devoted fans but also for the millions of people whose interest in football was largely confined to the pools coupon. While other sources of information and other forms of betting have undermined that relationship, the tradition of the 5pm reading has survived.”

Gordon has four seconds to communicate each result, in order to work through the various tiers of UK league football in the allotted time. He decided on his approach to reading scores on the first day on the job, while reporting the first game: Arsenal–Manchester United. “Arsenal had lost, and I felt sorry for their fans, and Manchester United had won, and I felt happy for their fans. And that is where the inflection in my voice came from.” (See video of Gordon explaining his methods.)

BBC Radio Five Live broadcast a special, “Sixty Years of Sports Report, 1948–2008,” on the anniversary date.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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